County Town: Taunton
Population: 459,100
Area: 3451 sq km 1332 sq miles
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Did you know that Cheddar Cheese was discovered 800 years ago by accident? A milk maid allowed a pail of milk to go bad whilst being stored in the caves at Cheddar and the result was the world famous cheese. The constant temperature of 7 degrees was perfect for the cheddar to mature
Did you know that Cheddar Gorge is the largest Gorge in Britian at 500 feet
East Coker
Did you know that the ashes of gloomy poet T.S. Elliot are buried in East Coker church in Somerset? His link with the village was personal and literary: the second of his Four Quartets (which cheerfully opens with: “In my beginning is my end.”) was titled East Coker; and his 17th century Elyot ancestors emigrated from the village to America.
Did you know the Sweet Track just outside Glastonbury dates from 3800BC and is the oldest engineered roadway in the world? What are now the Somerset Levels was a boggy forest, and this track was built of ash, lime and oak laid to create a timber causeway joining the edge of the marshland with an island over a mile away to allow a safe crossing place. It was rediscovered in 1970.
Did you know that while living in a large leased house near Holford in 1797 William Wordsworth was mistaken for a French spy? His habit of taking night-time walks with Coleridge (who had persuaded William and his sister Dorothy to move to the area) aroused suspicion and the romantic writers were investigated by the authorities.
Did you know that St Culbone’s Church near Porlock is the smallest church in Britain? The 12th century building can hold about 30 cramped worshippers. It is 33 feet long by 12 feet wide, but still incorporates a nave, chancel, porch and even a small spire. Though only accessed on foot, it still holds some services: the route to it is part of the South West Coast Path .
Did you know that Tarr Steps near Winsford in Somerset is thought to date from around 1000 BC and is the oldest bridge in Britain still in use? It shows our ancestors were organised and resourceful – the clapper bridge (made with stones not cemented together) over the River Barle in Exmoor spans 180 feet, with the 17 main slabs weighing an estimated five tonnes each
Did you know that the first recorded vaccination in the world was carried out at Yetminster near Yeovil in 1774? A farmer there, Benjamin Jesty, as was the case with Jenner two decades later, reasoned that inducing cowpox (whose sufferers were known not to suffer from smallpox subsequently) would bring immunity to the deadlier disease. He scratched the arms of his wife and two sons with pus from a neighbour’s cowpox-infected beast, using a darning needle. It worked – though his wife’s arm became infected, probably due to the needle being dirty.

Famous Somerset people

Alexander Kinglake | Arthur C Clarke | Auberon Waugh | Augustus Love | Benjamin Baker | Charles Oatley | Charles Paul | Charlie Higson | Cyril Pearson | Deborah Meaden | Edward Harper | Elizabeth Goudge | Ernest Bevin | Harold Gilman | Hartley Coleridge | Heather Stanning | Henry Fielding | Jenny Agutter | Jenson Button | Jill Dando | John Cleese | John Harding | John Locke | John Popham | John Pople | John Pym | John Sanger | John Speke | Keith Floyd | Mary Rand | Michael Eavis | Mitch Tonks | Peter Haggett | Richard Chorley | Robert Blake | Robert Parsons | Roger Bacon | Sir Henry Irving | Thomas Linley | Thomas Smith | Thomas Young | William Dampier | William Metford |

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On this day:
Battle of Shrewsbury - 1403, French Invade Isle of Wight - 1545, First Lord’s Test Match - 1884, Lord of the Rings Published - 1954, Man on the Moon - 1969, Tony Blair Elected Labour Leader - 1994
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